The House of Six Doors by Patricia Selbert is an emotional tale that will grab you and not let go – it is unflinchingly honest, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes hopeful, and always filled with wisdom. This is the coming of age story of Serena.
The House of Six Doors is narrated by thirteen year old Serena. She and her sister Hendrika are uprooted from their home in Curacao by their mother who believes a better life awaits them in America. They arrive in the US, in Florida, to find that nothing is as they had expected it to be. Serena’s mother tries to get a job in nursing only to find her nursing license has expired and is only good in California anyhow. So they pack up and off they go on a cross country trip to get there.
Serena struggles in this new and unknown place. She speaks several languages but English isn’t one of them and that sets her back immediately. While their mother is working the sisters visit a dance studio and this is where Serena meets her first boyfriend. Later on she tries to introduce him to her mother but she all but throws him out and forbids Serena to see him again. So, on the sly, Serena continues to see him and this leads her down a path that sees her growing up and facing adult issues in a big hurry and we follow along in her journey to get there.
I think the biggest impact of this book lies in the background of Serena’s life – the one that people don’t see. Serena’s mother is really unstable and she sets impossible ideals that she expects her children to live up to. She has already alienated two children who stayed back in Curacao with their father and she’s determined to make Serena and Hendrika into the young ladies she expects them to be. The girls tread ground carefully because their greatest fear is sending their mother back into a depression and having that blackness envelope them as well. The girls never know what to expect from their mother – she can be sweet one minute and volatile and unpredictable the next. She never passes up on an opportunity to tell her girls that they are ungrateful and don’t love her especially when she finds her control on them slipping.
My favorite parts of the novel are when Serena reminisces about her Oma; her grandmother, and about what her life was like on Curacao. Oma is full of wisdom on everything and shares all of her experience through stories she tells to Serena. Serena would spend lots of time with her at The House of Six Doors; their plantation house and she loved it there. One of my favorite passages comes from why this house is called The House of Six Doors…
The House of Six Doors by Patricia Selbert is beautifully written with many passages to remember and such vivid descriptions that it leaves you wanting to visit Curacao yourself. It is also a complex novel with many issues of a young girl coming of age in a strange country. A girl who not only has to deal with growing into a woman but also a girl who has to deal with a mentally ill mother. This is the story of Serena’s survival – it is a story that will break your heart at times but will ultimately leave you feeling hopeful.
To end I’m going to share a couple more of my favorite passages…
‘We all do what we have to do, to learn what we need to learn. By the choices we make, we write the stories of our lives.’ (page 252)
You can pick up your own copy of The House of Six Doors by Patricia Selbert here in the US and here in Canada. Be sure to pop in and visit Patricia Selbert’s website as well and if you click here it will take you to my giveaway of one copy of this terrific novel!
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My copy of The House of Six Doors by Patricia Selbert was received for review from the publicist.